Thursday, 24 March 2011

(elk)Hide I Seek

I get lots of questions about what handlebar tape I use on my mixte, so I've taken some close-ups. It's actually not tape at all, but elkhide sew-on city grips from Velo Orange. From a user's viewpoint, these are probably my favourite things to put on upright handlebars, because they feel the most comfortable to grip: not too hard and not to soft, just right. However, from an installer's viewpoint, they are kind of a pain to sew on and it takes forever. I've put them on two of my bicycles so far (the Royal H. and the Gazelle), each time thinking "never again!" while doing it. And yet, they are so comfortable, that I've just ordered another set.

The reason my elkhide grips look like bartape in pictures, is that I do have a layer of cloth tape installed underneath the leather. Doing this provides extra padding without making the gripping surface too soft. And the texture of the cloth tape printing through the leather feels ergonomic to my hands.

My grips are "espresso," to match my brown Brooks B72. When you first get these, they are kind of a dusty brick colour and don't match the Brooks brown at all - but they do once treated with Proofide (just install them first, then the Proofide).

As for the installation process... Let's just say lots of profanity was involved both times I sewed these on. VO recommends doing a 2-needle baseball cross-stitch, which is utterly foreign to me. After a half hour of unsuccessfully trying to figure out the instructions and undoing some very ugly sewing, I gave up and used my own stitch, which has held up pretty well since last September. Elkhide is a soft, almost buttery leather that weathers nicely and adapts to the shape of your grip - especially if you install it over a layer or cloth tape. Overall I find that it's worth it, despite the not-so-fun installation.


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